Federal Communications Commission

Archive for July 2010

FCC Consumer Broadband Tests Surpass 1 Million Results and Still Counting

July 16th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

Last week the FCC’s Consumer Broadband Tests recorded its one millionth test, providing users and the FCC with real-time data on the performance of fixed and mobile broadband networks.  You can take the fixed test or download the mobile test application in the Android or iPhone “App” stores by searching for “FCC”. 

We are pleased with the popularity of these tools and we look forward to updating them in the coming months to add more features, provide richer feedback to users and make more data available to the public.  Additionally, we encourage you to sign up to put your broadband to the test at, where you can volunteer to help the FCC gather and report statistical data on the performance of broadband providers across the United States via a hardware testing platform in your home.  As a reminder, the engines supporting the FCC Consumer Broadband Tests independently make some of their data available: click here to learn more about M-Lab and Ookla.

July Open Commission Meeting: Thoughts from the Chairman

July 15th, 2010 by Haley Van Dÿck - FCC New Media

The FCC held an Open Commission Meeting today to discuss expanding the reach and use of broadband by rural health care providers, increasing access and investment in mobile spectrum, and streamlining efficiency in the Electronic Tariff Filing System.

Chairman Genachowski shares his thoughts on today’s Open Commission Meeting below:

Denying Bill Shock by Distorting the Facts

July 15th, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

By Joel Gurin and John Horrigan, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

The FCC receives thousands of complaints a year about cell-phone bill shock – what happens when consumers get sudden, unexpected increases in their bills from one month to the next. In May, we released a national survey, done with two major research firms, showing that 17 percent of Americans – 30 million people – have experienced this problem. Click here for the whitepaper on the FCC survey.  

Now, rather than focusing on ways to address consumers’ concerns, the wireless trade association (CTIA – The Wireless Association) has been hard at work finding unfounded ways to criticize the FCC’s data.   The association’s latest attack on the FCC’s study is based on an astounding misstatement: that as many as 70 percent of the people we interviewed were teenagers. This is simply untrue -- in fact, we made it clear that we interviewed only adults.

Ironically enough, this whopper of an error stemmed from CTIA’s misunderstanding of how research organizations interview cell-phone users, who are an increasingly important part of any survey sample. Click here for a more detailed rebuttal of this and other errors in CTIA’s argument.

It’s unfortunate that CTIA, which represents one of the country’s most innovative and productive industries, has decided that ignoring or distorting the facts is a better strategy than simply addressing wireless customers’ concerns. This trade association apparently believes there’s nothing to worry about if 30 million Americans have gotten sudden increases on their cell-phone bills.

At the FCC, where we handle thousands of complaints a year on exactly this subject, we do believe that it’s a problem, and one that consumers shouldn’t have to experience. Moving forward, we hope that CTIA can work with us on simple solutions to help their customers avoid these costly surprises.

Cross-posted to The Official FCC Blog.

Connecting Kids to the Benefits of Broadband

July 15th, 2010 by John Horrigan - Consumer Research Director, Ombnibus Broadband Initiative.

By John Horrigan and Ellen Satterwhite, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis.

A recent article by Randall Stross in the New York Times calls attention to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in a paper titled “Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement,” by Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd, which caused quite a few emails and questions in passing here at the FCC.

The study is an analysis of the impact of home computer and broadband access on student achievement, particularly the impact on standardized test scores in math and reading. Following 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina between 2000 and 2005, the authors report a negative correlation between internet access and standardized test scores. Further, this negative effect is more pronounced for low-income students. Simply put: students who gained access to a home computer between 5th and 8th grades tended to see a decline in reading and math test scores, according to the study.

For those of us deep in the weeds on this subject, this finding was not as earth-shattering as some may have assumed. In fact, it is consistent with the findings in the National Broadband Plan: connectivity and hardware matter, but computers and broadband access cannot replace parents, teachers and broader social support as critical inputs into student achievement. Laptops in the home are not a silver bullet--digital literacy training for parents and teachers, appropriate content for online learning systems, and broader community digital literacy efforts are necessary to ensure children benefit from technology.

Like any general purpose technology, the exact economic and social benefits of broadband are difficult to quantify. Yet, a number of research studies (such as those from the Center for Learning Studies in Urban Schools and Information Communication Technology) in the US and abroad demonstrate that instructional gains come about only if schools undertake new instructional approaches tethered to technology and if they adopt new practices to support the technology. The FCC took these findings and made recommendations to support and promote digital literacy for teachers and in the classroom and to support the development of innovative broadband-enabled online learning solutions in Chapter 11 of the National Broadband Plan.

Furthermore, as Vigdor and Ladd point out in their review of the literature, there is evidence that holistic broadband adoption and use programs—those that involve more than simply providing laptops to children—have positive impacts on student classroom performance. Such findings were the support for recommendations in Chapter 9 on Adoption and Utilization. Recommendations like the National Digital Literacy Corps and improved training and support for libraries and other community-based organizations, are ways to build a community’s digital social support structure and help make broadband access beneficial, and not detrimental.

The studies highlighted in the Times’ article are valuable contributions to the discussion of how to make broadband part of educational solutions. The National Broadband Plan recognizes that computers and high-speed connectivity can play an important role in improving outcomes in the classroom – along with the expertise of the educational community, engagement by the technology sector, and involvement of family.

Connecting America’s Stories: 21st Century Economic Opportunity

July 15th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan



Small business is a cornerstone of the American economy. From the growth of the Internet, small businesses have created more than 1.2 million new jobs in the last 10 to 15 years.
The National Broadband Plan is a key part of the recovery and reinvestment in America, ensuring we remain an economic powerhouse of innovation in coming years.  By getting people to work in new ways, spreading digital literacy, and ensuring reliable, affordable broadband access to all corners of America, our future will be brighter. 
Matt in Portland, Oregon
I'm sure I am one of a growing number of Americans who work over the internet. I basically can't live without affordable reliable high speed internet. It is the first question I ask when looking to move (which I do often). In the future there will be many many more people like myself out there.
Ellen Satterwhite, Policy Analyst with the Omnibus Broadband Initiative
This is the 21st century. We’re going nowhere but faster internet, more things online, more ways to interact and transact and work online, and I see the fact that the FCC has identified ways to channel this as hopefully impacting the future conversation.

At the end of the day, it’s about being competitive in a global economy and we can argue about whether or not we’re 14th or 17th all day.  But I think it will be reflected in our GDP, I think it will be reflected in how competitive our university graduates are with graduates around the world.  I think it will be about the US software industry remaining competitive, and those are very real consequences.
If we are going to create jobs in this country, then enabling small businesses to thrive is essential.  Today it isn’t just a luxury, but a necessity to be connected.
Darryl in Glade Spring, Virginia
Full service DSL or cable are not available at my home. We would like to set up a home based business but without affordable high speed Internet, it is almost impossible. DSL is available within a mile in one direction and 1/3 of a mile in another. As far as I can find out, no phone or cable company has a plan to get service to my address. Please help as soon as possible. Opportunities for a successful business are slipping away!
Dave Vorhaus, Economic Opportunity Team, National Broadband Task Force
There’s recommendations in place for public/private partnership for increasing broadband usage among small businesses by giving them better training in digital literacy, fee or discounted applications, access to counselors, things like that. …
In the job training section, it was really about putting job training online and making it more accessible for everybody.  So rather than having to go to Department of Labor One stops, which are physical locations, to take that concept and put it online, so that people can  effectively go through job training, get some career placement help, get some skills assistance, but to be able to do it online.
Making telework a more accessible option could give 17.5 million people a chance re-enter and join the workforce.
But opportunity has a similarity with real estate in a major way: location, location, location.  Being able to telework is a boon to businesses and workers, as talent can be sourced in a much more efficient way for both parties. 
Dave continues:
Telework – the goal was relatively simple – to get more people to telework, because there is an understanding that by allowing people to work from remote locations you can increase the productivity of workers, you can make businesses run more efficient.
Jim in Garden City, Idaho
My employer is combining and closing offices, pushing people to work-from-home. Broadband, for me, is a way of commuting, like the new Interstate Highway System was for commuters of the 1960s. Broadband enables people to live remotely and access the world. "I can't drive 55"
21st century jobs require digital literacy. 21st century businesses require connectivity.  As we rebuilt our economy, we must make sure that we build it for the century to come – with training, access and affordability.  Learn more about building economic opportunity with broadband in the plan and keep sharing your stories with us.

Live Blogging the July Open Commission Meeting

July 15th, 2010 by George Krebs

10:57am ET

This month’s Open Commission Meeting begins with an item concerning the Rural Health Care Fund. Since the price of Internet connectivity can be far higher in rural areas, this fund supports broadband connectivity in rural health care facilities by subsidizing costs. Participants secure matching funds for Internet services. This step toward broadband parity throughout the country opens up the breathtaking promise of telehealth. Those regions with often limited access are linked with the most capable medical specialists and the most cutting edge resources around in the country.  In his comments Chairman Genachowski says, “This program is a critical step in fulfilling the goals of the National Broadband Plan.”
11:24am ET
We next address the rapidly growing need for spectrum. This item proposes changes to the Mobile Satellite Services licensee leasing policies. In plain speak, this will increase the value, utilization and investment of lesser used spectrum. Spectrum is tremendously precious in today’s mobile environment. The Commissioners call on swift action in implementing these changes to decrease unnecessary obstacles for optimizing spectrum use by removing regulatory barriers. Doing so will catalyze innovation, create jobs and mark further steps toward making our mobile environment the most fertile in the world.
11:46am ET
Our last item is an incontrovertible one seeking “a more efficient, transparent, and open flow of information.” This rule will streamline commission processes by requiring carriers to file their tariffs electronically. Each commissioner is brief in their remarks. Commissioner Copps sums up the sentiment of the slate. “Great item, great idea, I support it.”
12:03pm ET
All three votes have passed unanimously and an efficient July meeting has come to a swift close.

Spanish Version of the National Broadband Plan Release

July 12th, 2010 by Keyla Hernandez-Ulloa

En un número creciente de hogares americanos se habla español, pero más de la mitad de todos los hispanos no tienen acceso a la banda ancha donde ellos viven.

Esta comunidad de habla hispana puede beneficiarse únicamente de acceso a la banda ancha, adopción, y conectividad. Y esa misma comunidad – como todos los americanos – no se le puede permitir que se quede atrás cuando se despliega el futuro de la banda ancha. 

Para dirigirse a éstas y muchas otras cuestiones sobre la banda ancha, la Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones (FCC por sus siglas en inglés) entregó un plan nacional de banda ancha al Congreso. Titulada Creando un Estados Unidos Conectado: Plan Nacional de Banda Ancha, el plan presenta una agenda ambiciosa que proporciona recomendaciones para conectar a todos los americanos a la banda ancha. 

Hoy, este documento, titulado Creando un Estados Unidos Conectado: Plan Nacional de Banda Ancha, está disponible en un formato descargable para consumidores que hablan español.

La información en cuestiones como las barreras de costo para la adopción y utilización de banda ancha y la alfabetización digital es sumamente importante para la comunidad de habla hispana. Hoy, la FCC está orgullosa de entregar el plan directamente a la comunidad.

Si se ponen en práctica, las innovaciones de banda ancha, tendrán muchos efectos. En la asistencia médica, se reducirán los gastos poniendo instrumentos de salud digitales al alcance de los doctores y hospitales a través del país y eliminaran las barreras para el tratamiento del paciente. En la educación, la banda ancha promoverá la necesidad del alfabetismo digital para asegurar que los estudiantes completan sus estudios con éxito y continúan a hacerse miembros de un personal competitivo.

Estoy orgullosa del Plan Nacional de Banda Ancha de la Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones y los animo a todos que lo lean. 


A growing number of American households speak Spanish, but a full half of all Hispanics don’t connect to broadband where they live.

This Spanish-speaking community can uniquely benefit from a full broadband access, adoption, and connectivity. And that same community – like all Americans – can’t afford to be left behind as the future of broadband in America unfolds.

To address these and many other issues surrounding broadband, the Federal Communications Commission delivered the National Broadband Plan to Congress. Titled Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan, the plan lays out an ambitious agenda that provides recommendations for connecting all Americans to affordable broadband .

Today, that document is available in a downloadable format for Spanish speaking consumers.

Information on issues such as the cost barriers to adoption and utilization and digitally literacy are vitally important for the Spanish-speaking community to have. Today, the FCC is proud to deliver the plan directly to that community. 

If implemented, the broadband innovations in this plan will reach far. In health care, they will lower costs by putting digital health tools in the hands of doctors and hospitals across the country and removing barriers for patient treatment. In education, broadband will promote the digital literacy skills students need to ensure that they successfully complete their studies and go on to become members of a competitive workforce.

I am proud of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan and encourage everyone to read it.

Cross-posted from The Official FCC Blog.

Remarks on Pew Center on the States Panel on “The Role of States in the National Strategy”

July 1st, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

Sue Urahn, thank you for having me here. I’ve read the report and it’s a much-needed synthesis of the state of play for broadband in the states.

We look forward to seeing much more great work from the Pew Center on the States in the broadband arena.

And Steve Fletcher, it’s also great to have you here from NASCIO. What you’ve done in Utah, streamlining your enterprise social services system – and really, IT throughout state government - and ultimately improving service delivery, is exactly the kind of proactive effort that the National Broadband Plan recommends.

When our team at the FCC began developing the National Broadband Plan, we said that we wanted to be data-driven and to break through traditional silos that may have hemmed in high-level strategic thinking about broadband in the past.

This approach ended up being strikingly apt for the challenge we were facing, because broadband breaks down more silos than any other technology the world has yet seen.

As the columnist Tom Friedman has noted, broadband is a “flattener” that dramatically reduces barriers to connecting with ideas, with opportunities and with other citizens.

Twenty years ago, two friends from different states that wanted to stay in touch might mail each other pen-pal notes, or place an expensive long-distance call.

Today, they can video-chat in real time and book flights online to visit each other in-person – all from the convenience of their smartphone.

But it is important to remember that the “flattening” nature of broadband cannot only create value, but also to constrain value creation, or even destroy value, in certain circumstances.

Broadband isn’t bound by state lines, but state laws and regulations can determine whether or not broadband can create value for the citizens of a state.

This morning, let me suggest a few parts of the broadband ecosystem where this is particularly true – and suggest ways that states might work with each other, and the FCC, to tip the balance from value constraint to value creation.

One key example is the area of licensing.  In 1847, Nathan Smith Davis founded the American Medical Association, one of the country’s oldest national professional organizations. In order to improve the quality of the practice of medicine, Davis argued that the right to license physicians should be transferred from state and county medical societies and colleges to newly formed state licensing boards.

Since that time, the medical technology – and communications between doctors and doctors and doctors and patients -- have changed.

In an era when doctors lugged their black bags on house calls, it took them several days to consult  with colleagues in other states – not milliseconds.

But in an era when doctors use broadband, the relatively low cost of video connectivity means that physicians can diagnose and treat patients thousands of miles away – leveraging particular expertise that is often sorely needed.

This is particularly important for high physician shortage areas and rural regions of the country, which almost every state has. For example, today 27 states have fewer developmental-behavioral pediatricians than they need to meet demand.

But we still rely on the same state-based licensing system pioneered by Nathan Smith Davis over 160 years ago to determine where those pediatricians can perform their good works - at the same time that European thought leaders have begun thinking about moving to transnational medical licensing.

So the Plan calls upon the nation’s governors and state legislatures to revise their licensing requirements to enable e-care, and to collaborate through groups like the NGA, NCSL and the Federation of State Medical Boards to craft an interstate agreement that makes it easier for doctors to treat patients across state lines.

We applaud the early efforts of State Alliance for E-Health, convened by the NGA’s Center on Best Practices, to streamline the licensing processes across states via online tools for quick updates to credentials and other qualifications.

Or take the example of taxes. Currently, businesses face a patchwork of state and local laws and regulations relating to the taxation of digital goods and services. For example, New Jersey and Vermont explicitly tax ringtones delivered through electronic means, but Nebraska only taxes “digital audio works (music).” This begs the question: is a ringtone a digital audio work? Is it music?

And because more and more products and services can be downloaded in a mobile environment, several taxing authorities may try to lay claim to the same transaction. If I start downloading Iron Man 2 on my iPad on one side of the Key Bridge in Virginia and finish in DC, who gets to collect the sales tax on that transaction?

Without greater clarity and consistency across the country with regard to what counts as a digital good or service -- how that good or service will be taxed -- it’s hard for us to create an environment in which innovation in digital products and business models can fully flourish. And it will be hard for entrepreneurs and small businesses to understand the tax obligations they face.

That’s why the Plan recommends investigating the establishment of a national framework for digital goods and services taxation. This framework would not usurp the authority of states to set their own taxation regimes; but much like the Uniform Commercial Code in the past, it could provide a means for moving from value constraint to value creation in our approach to online commerce.

The Plan also suggests reforms to streamline the process of gaining access to rights-of-way.

One of the most significant sources of cost and delay in building broadband networks is the process of gaining access to rights-of-way and preparing those rights-of-way for broadband deployment, a process called “make-ready.”

For large broadband network builds, the rights-of-way process is highly fragmented and often involves dozens of utilities, cable providers and telecommunications providers in multiple jurisdictions. This process remains expensive, and there is no established process for the timely resolution of disputes.

Some states, like Connecticut and New York, have managed the rights-of-way process well, including the establishment of firm timelines to which rights-of-way owners must adhere and direct regulation of the make-ready process. But in other states, it can take half a year to complete make-ready work.

If we want to move from value constraint to value creation, we need to break down barriers that may be standing in the way of broadband deployment.

So in May, the FCC issued a Pole Attachments Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking o ask for comment on proposed rules to streamline the process.

The Plan also calls for the creation of a joint ROW task force with state and local policymakers to craft guidelines for rates, terms and conditions for access to public rights of way. We intend for that task force to be up and running by the end of September and look forward to working with our state colleagues on crafting an approach to the rights-of-way challenge that will enable more and better networks.

And while we’re on the topic of building networks, it’s worth pointing out that the Plan encourages Congress to clarify that state, local, and tribal governments can build broadband networks themselves.

Much like rural electric cooperatives emerged in the early 20th century to fill the void left when investor-owned electric utilities neglected rural areas in their rush to electrify urban centers
In the absence of investment, local communities should have the right to move forward if they deem it in the best interest of their citizens and their economy.

I’ve only focused on a few elements of the Plan today, but I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have on other parts that are likely to impact states, including the Universal Service Fund, demand aggregation to allow states and localities to take part in federal IT contracts, public safety, consumer protection, or any other topics.

To close, we all know that the states play a crucial role in making broadband accessible to all Americans. The Plan is a launch-pad, not a landing, and we need states to be actively engaged in solving the problem of making broadband available, affordable, and accessible to all Americans. 

As we move forward with proceedings, we’re looking forward to getting your input through the filing process on several specific topics.

We want to learn more about efforts that you have undertaken or contemplated on universal service  and intercarrier compensation, and about state-level efforts to deploy broadband generally, including information on how states are evaluating current Carrier of Last Resort requirements as we shift to IP-based networks.

We want to get your input on infrastructure issues, and the impact of the Plan’s proposed recommendations on traditional wireline carriers.

We’d like to receive more information on state experiences with demand-side initiatives to reach people with disabilities, people on Tribal lands and other underserved groups.

And of course, we encourage you to comment in response to our E-Rate Fiscal 2011 NPRM – e.g., wireless connectivity, our Rural Health Care NPRM, and our Broadband Data NPRM (which will come out in the 4th quarter of this year).

Thanks, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones